One of the oldest questions about optical FX....

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Ronald Epstein, Apr 29, 2005.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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    I have what some of you might consider
    a very silly question as it is one that
    has probably been asked for decades....

    How do they film people/objects in
    front of a mirror without the camera
    and crew showing up in the reflection?

    With today's technology a question like
    that would be a no-brainer. However, the
    reason I even bring this question up is
    that I have been watching a lot of classic
    film and television lately on DVD and always
    take notice of scenes involving mirrors.

    Back in the early days of cinema I am
    certain that lensing in front of mirrors
    became a challenge for filmmakers.

    Just curious.
     
  2. David Forbes

    David Forbes Supporting Actor

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    I always thought that they either (a) hid the camera behind an object (like a painting on the wall behind the person being photographed), or, more usually, the camera doesn't really film straight-on in the mirror, but rather at a shallow enough angle that it only looks straight while keeping the camera out of the mirror's field of view.

    In what movies have you seen this? If I could take a look I might be able to figure it out, or research it. Now you've got me curious!
     
  3. Steve Christou

    Steve Christou Long Member

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    I'd say it's mostly to do with finding the right camera angle. The climax to 'Enter the Dragon' must have been a bitch to film, trying to make sure the cameras don't show in all those mirrors.

    There was a fight scene in the Bond film 'The Man with the Golden Gun', one of the baddies hits a mirror which moves and you can clearly see the film crew reflected in it.

    Logans Run, the robot 'Box' is all shiny reflective metal, and you can see the camera crew reflected on it's body in practically every shot.[​IMG]
     
  4. Holadem

    Holadem Lead Actor

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    He he, I thought it was one of those things every HTFer knew except me. Glad the commander in chief is just as clueless.

    Now where is that well written accurate exhaustive reply already?

    --
    H
     
  5. RickER

    RickER Producer

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    I have seen all the tricks done in movies from camera angle to the angle of the mirror itself, being tilted to the floor. Cant think of any movie for an example, but i know they have even gone as far as to build the set reflection inside the mirror. I have seen some movies where the reflection is just a blue screen matt as in a car chase and we get the ol' rear view mirror shot. Oh, and i always loved the BOX reflection in Logans Run. You can also see the crew in Excalibur on the silver armour.
     
  6. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Moderator
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    Remember the mirror scene in "Contact"? Nice FX going on in that scene.
     
  7. Steve Christou

    Steve Christou Long Member

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    When the little girl is running upstairs to get the medicine? Fabulous shot. Great use of visual effects in that film, many effects I didn't even know were there until I listened to the commentary.
     
  8. Seth--L

    Seth--L Screenwriter

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    It's just a matter of angles. Go stand in front of mirror, if it's really big draw a box on it using a dry erase marker, put your hand out pretending that it is the person you are photographing, and observe how you can position your head to stay out of the imaginary frame.
     
  9. Greg_S_H

    Greg_S_H Executive Producer

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    In T2, during the scene where Sarah operates on the terminator, they actually had a hole in the wall and had Hamilton's sister on the other side, mirroring her actions.

    In Revenge of the Sith, Lucas wanted to finally have C-3P0 shiny and polished, unlike the rather dull gold they had to use in the OT. 3P0 picked up the crew like crazy, so they had to go back and digitally paint every necessary frame to remove the crew.
     
  10. Gregory Vaughan

    Gregory Vaughan Stunt Coordinator

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    As I remember, in Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet, he shot the whole room of mirrors soliloquy by carefully calculating angles and placing the camera in the one place where it wouldn't reflect in any mirror.
     
  11. Brett_B

    Brett_B Supporting Actor

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    Other movies that have some "mirror" shots are:

    Ghost - when Swayze's and Moore's characters were moving in to their apartment.

    F/X - the end of the movie (upstairs in the hallway).
     
  12. Haggai

    Haggai Producer

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    Steve mentioned the "fun-house" mirror climax of Enter the Dragon, which had been used in some form in earlier movies as well. One was Orson Welles' The Lady From Shanghai, from the late '40s. A brilliant scene that was "mirrored" (rim shot) very effectively in Enter the Dragon. In the late '20s, Chaplin had a fun-house mirror sequence in The Circus, although it wasn't as complex as those other two examples, with the whole thing just shot from one angle (as I recall).

    Many other examples, of course, including one I noticed a few years ago while flipping around on TV--a mirror-filled showdown with Jack Palance holding Teri Hatcher at gunpoint in the Stallone/Kurt Russell buddy flick, Tango and Cash!
     
  13. Adam_S

    Adam_S Producer

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    You're always aware of mirrors. They're such a visually powerful and loaded device it's hard to resist shooting them, the caveat is they're a bitch to shoot.

    Basically it's a practical matter of cinematography, set design, and lighting. Mirrors will reflect different areas of a set depending on the angle you view them at and the angle the mirror is positioned at in relation to the set and to the camera. I believe this is how Orson Welles did things, though I'm not sure and would love to hear a pure technical discussion of the mirror shot at the end of CK (I believe it's at a slight angle and tracking a little behind Kane).

    As others have pointed out, mirrors also can be made nonexistent by set design. I imagine you're thinking of the Marx Brothers, Ron, and I honestly don't know off hand how they did that work, but it was a combination of several techniques, I imagine. The classic 1930s Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde opens with a great shot. The camera subjectively moves around a room and then approaches a mirror, which you see absolutely straight on, and it's Fredric March, no camera. This was achieved by having the mirror be a hole in the set and March walks into it and performs facing the camera, while the figure we've been following (but never seen) is a double.

    Controlling the light (and shadow) you want reflected can also be very effective at remaining unseen and pulling off various mirror shots. You could have a very limited area around a mirror lit and then put the camera far away with a long (telephoto) lens. the camera will be in darkness and not reflected by the mirror.

    I don't know when one-way mirrors (like in police films) were invented or how and how often they've been used for special effects. But if you can shoot through cleanly through them, I know they have been used.

    from my own experience, the real bitch is trying to light a dark scene that has a wall full of mirrors and keeping the key from reflecting in the mirror but still hitting your principal actors.

    In my opinion, the real mindbender is some of the blends, fades, dissolves that were done in silent film before the optical printer and rear projection special effects were invented to composit elements together. They literally had to mask off portions of negative and have the inverse re-exposed later.

    Adam
     
  14. Russell G

    Russell G Fake Shemp

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    I thought they would reflect the wanted "filmed" image into a second mirror and flim that, allowing a full blown head on shot. For a great mirror gag, check out the original "Dr. Jeckle And Mr. Hyde", where the whole opening sequence is shot in the first person, including a mirror shot. It was easy to do, with the actor just being in front of the camera in a hole in the wall, but the coreography is so good, it's just awesome!
     
  15. Will_B

    Will_B Producer

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    One of the special features on the Robin Williams disc Final Cut is a detailed look at the mirror gag. Since the film is about what people see with their own eyes, there are many shots of people looking into mirrors that needed to look realistic.

    Already mentioned was the Terminator 2 special feature with the look at the deleted scene which had a mirror. But the one on Final Cut is more amazing IMO.
     
  16. Henry Gale

    Henry Gale Producer

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    Frances Ford Coppolo uses the double set method in Peggy Sue Got Married (1986)
    When first seeing it, even though I knew it was Kathleen Turner and a double I admired the tremendous amount of work that went into the shot.
    Someone was not so forgiving in the IMDB "Goofs" section:
    "Revealing mistakes: At beginning of movie, Peggy Sue and the actions of her reflection in the mirror do not match up exactly (most of the scenes with mirror's involved were done with doubles in reverse, making exact movement in sync very hard, this is very evident in the final shot of the film)."
    I really want to add this to my collection.
    Leon Ames (Judy Garland's father in Meet Me In St. Louis) and Maureen O'Sullivan played Peggy Sue's grandparents. Between them Ames & O'Sullivan had 110 years in cinema at this time.
     

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